South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the people behind the week-long incident riots and looting will be brought to justice. Violence and looting in South Africa has claimed the lives of 212 people and the government is struggling to bring the situation under control.
Ramaphosa said in a televised address that the country was “poorly prepared” to handle the unrest. He said the government will find responsible people for inciting violence.
“Those behind these actions have sought to incite a popular uprising among our people. We will spare no effort to bring those individuals to justice,” Ramaphosa said.
The nation’s Small Business Development Minister and member of South Africa’s Parliament, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said investigations into the riots were now at a “very advanced stage”. She said that authorities arrested one of the masterminds and 11 others are now under surveillance.
Since the riots began, major retail stores, warehouses and shopping malls have been ransacked. Business owners in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg have called on the government to do more to stop looting, which has raised fears of potential shortages and an economic downturn.
Ramaphosa said it could take “several months” before businesses can return to normal operations. Supply chain destruction and disruption will take time to recover, he said.
According to government figures, most of those killed in the riots were in KwaZulu-Natal. Of the 212 people who were killed, 180 were from the province. Most died after they were shot in the riot, while others died in looting.
According to official figures, more than 2,500 people have been arrested for various crimes. The government was forced to tap into its armed reserve to meet its goal of deploying more than 25,000 troops to hard-hit areas.
“We will make sure that no one will challenge the authority of the state. We will use force,” said South Africa’s defense chief, Rudzani Maphwanya.
The riots began after former president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for failing to cooperate in his corruption investigation. Zuma describes himself as an advocate for the poor. He commanded the support of loyalists in the African National Congress and had thousands of supporters – including those from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
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